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Kids crying that they hate the food (before they ever try it). Some take bites before the prayer is even said. Your son passes gas. Your daughter reaches across your face right as you go to take a bite. Your husband belches, just to show how loud he can be. One child eats as fast as he can (to get back to his game) stuffing his mouth so full, how does he not choke? Another child eats like a dog, not using utinsels. Kids bicker, sometimes with a mouth full of food. Slurping always happens when jello is served. Blowing bubbles in their drink. Then within minutes everyone is gone from the table and you are left alone and exhausted after spending an hour creating this dinner that is so quickly denied or consumed… Please tell me this has happened at your house too. No, these don’t all happen all the time, or at the same time. But they all have happened at my dinner table. Years ago I felt that something needed to be done about the bad manners at my table. While showing them by example is ideal, kids will be kids. I was tired of always getting after everyone, especially when they didn’t take me seriously or just thought I was a party pooper.
Somewhere on the internet I saw something that triggered an idea to change what was happening at my table. I pulled this little piggy out of the play dough toys to help teach my family some manners. He has joined us at the dinner table off and on through the years.
We recently went out of town on a mini vacation with some friends, and while eating out quite a bit, I realized that it has been too long since we’ve used him. My young children’s manners were not so great when sitting in a nice resaurant.
Here’s how we turned dinner time into somewhat of a game. The pig starts out in the middle of the table. When someone notices another person using bad manners, they pass the pig to them, stating what manners they need to fix.
At first the kids WANTED the pig. They thought it was funny to have bad manners, and to get the pig. Then we decided to add a stipulation to having the pig in the end. Whoever has the pig at the end, has to clean up dinner. This changed things. Nobody wants to clean up dinner, so everyone is careful not to get the pig.
The kids are the ones to remember the pig and sometimes if the pig is misplaced, they will find another object to use in its place. Even when the kids’ friends join us for dinner, they often ask, “where’s the pig, let’s do the pig?”
To introduce this activity to your family, you could do a Family Home Evening on manners. Practice it throughout the week and then take the family out to dinner at a sit down resaurant to test what they’ve learned.